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11.12.14

Greater Manchester Police must improve child protection – HMIC

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) must improve on “significant delays” in the investigation of a number of child protection cases and become more consistent in the way it deals with child sexual exploitation, according to a report from the police watchdog.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) looked at the force's child protection work, including sexual exploitation. It found four areas of concern that it has given GMP six weeks to address.

Inspectors found significant delays in the investigation of a number of child protection cases and inconsistent practice across the force, particularly in dealing with child sexual exploitation. There was also limited evidence of review or audit of child protection work to support learning and improve practice and inspectors were particularly worried that children were being unnecessarily detained in police custody overnight.

HM inspector of constabulary, Mike Cunningham, said: “I was concerned that inspectors found significant delays in the investigation of a number of child protection cases, and would like to see these delays reduced. There were instances of children being unnecessarily detained in custody overnight, which I would also like to see addressed.

“I encourage GMP to act on our recommendations as a matter of urgency, and have asked that within six weeks it provides us with an action plan to demonstrate how it will act upon these recommendations.”

Inspectors also found evidence of strong practice in several areas. The report notes that the force has “a strong commitment and visible leadership for child protection, and clear plans for continued improvement of child protection services”; and that the staff working on child abuse investigations and skilled and dedicated.

The report also praised the force for its good relationships with partner agencies and local safeguarding children boards and for having staff from partner agencies based in the same location, to help deliver better child protection services.

Assistant chief constable of GMP Dawn Copley said: "The report sets out many positive developments including the establishment of CSE teams across the force and the fact that GMP has a strong and clear commitment to improving child protection across Manchester.”

She added: "The report has also highlighted the knowledge and skillset of specialist staff who work with the victims throughout the investigation, helping them get through their ordeal. We have also seen a significant investment in training frontline officers to spot the early signs of any safeguarding issues.

"However, we recognise the delays that can sometimes arise when investigating cases involving child abuse and the distress this can cause to the victims. We are now working alongside colleagues from the high tech crime unit and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure these delays are kept to a minimum.”

Copley agreed with the report that keeping children in custody overnight should be avoided and said the force was taking steps to see that this does not happen in the future.

(Image: c. Terry)

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